Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers has until Friday to take action on a new state budget that was passed last week by both houses of the Legislature. His office has not said whether he will sign it, partially veto it, or fully veto the biennial spending plan in full.
The previous state budget, signed by former Gov. Scott Walker, ended on June 30 and remains in effect until a new budget is signed into law.
“Governor Evers vetoed your middle-class tax cut, but we are giving him a do-over in this budget,” Republican Sen. Alberta Darling and co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) tweeted after Republican majorities in the legislature approved a new spending plan. “We are cutting income taxes by $400 million. This is a huge opportunity for seniors on fixed incomes and young couples starting a family.”
Darling urged residents to contact Evers to “ask him to sign the budget and create opportunities for everyone in our great state.” She stressed, “The Republican budget creates opportunities for every person in Wisconsin to succeed. It’s sustainable, affordable, and responsible.”
That was the same day Evers tweeted, “I’ve said all along that the will of the people is the law of the land, and that’s what will be on my mind as I review the Legislature’s changes to our budget.”
As of Tuesday evening, Evers had taken no action on the nearly $82 billion budget. With the Independence Day holiday on Thursday, many expect action to be taken Wednesday.
Republicans, Democrats and a number of groups have given him differing advice. LeadingAge Wisconsin, which represents long-term care facilities, urged the governor to sign it, while the Wisconsin Association of School Boards asked him to partially veto one section.
While the JFC stripped 131 policy proposals and cut $1.4 billion worth of spending and taxes from Evers’ proposal, it increased healthcare funding by $588 million without expanding Medicaid.
The JFC voted 11-4 against Medicaid expansion, with one member absent, in early May. Minnesota Public Radio said that expanding Medicaid would save state taxpayers money, but others note that it increases the federal deficit.
A report by the Institute for Reforming Government found that by not expanding Medicaid, Wisconsin has saved money without reducing care since 2014. Under Walker and the legislature's reform of BadgerCare, “everyone living in poverty in Wisconsin has access to health care services providing full benefits for the first time in history,” the state Department of Health reported in 2014.
A Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) analysis found that the state’s uninsured rate “is one of the lowest in the country – 5.8 percent without expanding Medicaid – and the state is one of just a handful with no coverage gap.”
The Republican proposal sent to Evers also includes an additional $500 million in K-12 education, making the state’s total investment in education $12.3 billion.
Under previous Democratic leadership, which used the same funding mechanisms as Evers’, the state faced a “huge structural deficit” when the Great Recession hit, Darling said after a JFC voter earlier this year. Under Republican leadership, “We dug out of that hole and are now delivering record funding,” she said.
The budget also includes a $450 million income tax rate cut without raising taxes on manufacturers as Evers proposed.
Darling and her co-chair, Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, said in a joint statement they were “continuing to put taxpayers first.”
They pledged not to reverse the strides the legislature had made over the last eight years, saying, “Our careful budgeting and reforms led to more than $2 billion in available revenues. There is simply no reason to raise taxes. We will make significant investments in shared priorities, but we will do it by living within our means. Our budget will be responsible, sustainable, and funded with the money we already have on hand.”